Minca is a little town based high in the mountains of Colombia and only a 40 minute drive from the city of Santa Marta. Whilst it may not be the prettiest town, it has everything you need to disconnect from the outside world and hit the reset button. You will sleep in tree houses, lounge in giant hammocks, explore local coffee farms, and with most of the hostels abstaining from Wifi and holding communal dinners, you have the opportunity to really engage with your fellow travelers.
Most people have heard of Minca because of Casa Elemento, the famous hostel with the giant hammock. But Minca has so much more to offer and perhaps better hostels to stay at, such as Casa Loma and Casa Viejas.
The main way to get to Minca is through the town of Santa Marta which has very good links to the rest of Colombia. The bus terminal in Santa Marta is just outside the main town. If you are flying in (from Medellin, Bogota or Cali), you will need to take a colectivo bus from the airport to the centre. It is quite a distance so make sure you stay on until Centro Mercado (the central market), the many hostels are then within walking distance.
For your onward journey to Minca from Santa Marta you have 3 options:
- Hail one on the street or ask your hostel to book it (although this will make it more expensive). It should cost you no more than COL$35,000 (€10 / $12), but you will need to bargain hard!
Moto taxi (motorbike taxi):
- If you only have a small backpack with you, this is your best option. You can catch one from the centre of Santa Marta. Cost COL$10,000 (€3 / $4).
- Head to ‘La Estacion de Minca’ which is on Calle 12, Carrera 9, opposite ‘El Mercado Nuevo’. This is where they depart from until 6pm. Cost is COL$8,000 (€2 / $3) per person.
To get back to Santa Marta:
- Grab a taxi from the main street running through Minca. This should cost no more than COL$35,000 (€10 / $12). From Santa Marta, you can then explore the Tayrona National Natural Park.
Go Travel and Talk Top Tip: Santa Marta’s main road is incredibly chaotic, so you need to be really ballsy to flag down buses and taxis. Don’t be afraid to haggle with the taxis, and if they suggest any more than COL$35,000 (€10 / $12) find another.
Mostly walking, although If you are heading further afield to waterfalls or coffee farms, you can get a mototaxi which are based all along the main street by the Lazy Cat cafe. if horse riding is your thing, trek on horseback up to the mountains, the scenery is out of this world.
Pozo Azul consists of two beautiful and popular watering holes with the locals and tourists alike. The water, whilst freezing, offers a welcome relief from the humidity in the north of Colombia. You can walk there from the main road (1 hour), or take a mototaxi from the bridge on the main road, which will cost around COL$5,000 (€1 / $2). Entrance is free.
Victoria Coffee Farm (Finca La Victoria):
Up the hill from Pozo Azul, head to Finca La Victoria, a coffee farm which gives you an invaluable insight into the production process of coffee. La Finca Victoria is a 500-hectare coffee farm founded in 1982. If you visit, you are taken through different buildings for each part of the process and shown the traditional equipment and methods used since the 1800s, you will feel like you have stepped back in time, all whilst enjoying a wonderful cup of Cafe Tinto. To walk there, it takes around 1.5 hours, it is just up the hill from Pozo Azul (ask your hostel for directions) or take a mototaxi. You can book this through your hostel (see below), it is 1 hour long, in English or Spanish and costs: COL$10,000 (€3 / $3).
There are multiple hikes you can do around Minca, and if you stay at Casa Loma they have an entire folder that you can flick through. The most popular is the Los Pinos Trail which gives you a magical view over the Sierra Nevada mountains. You will hike for 6 hours in total, with the first 3 hours dedicated to an uphill climb! Once at the top though, it is all worth it.
I recommend chilling in Casa Elemento’s huge hammock before you start your descent (see below). Cost: Hike is free, use of Casa Elemento's hammock: COL$5,000 (€1 / $2).
Or head over to Cerro Kennedy (Pico Colon y Pico Bolivar) for breathtaking views over the Caribbean and the mountain peaks of the Sierra Nevada.
Head to Casa Elemento: You may or may not have heard of this place. It was HUGE about 6 years ago, but it has steadily decreased in popularity as a place to stay due to new hostels popping up. HOWEVER, it is the only place that has a giant hammock overhanging a cliff face with INCREDIBLE views, not to mention a pool and climbing wall. Spend a day relaxing in the hammock reading a good book or use it to catch your breath after the Los Pinos hike. Either way, lie back and enjoy! Cost: COL$10,000 (€3 / $3) to visit and chill in the hammock. Check them out on Instagram: @casaelemento.
Hang out in the town:
Considering Minca is such a small town, there is no shortage of eateries, most of which have Wifi in case you desperately need to plan your next movements, or maybe check Instagram….. These cafes provide the perfect spot to people watch and see life at a slower pace and munch on some delicious delights (see what to eat section).
Casa Loma hostel is an experience in itself and there really is nowhere else is to stay when in Minca. Perched on the side of a mountain (the name translates as ‘house on the hill’), Casa Loma hostel offers stunning views and glorious sunsets, and even though you have to climb over 150 steps to get there, all is forgiven when you reach the top.
You can choose to pitch your tent, sleep in a hammock under the night sky, tuck yourself away in their tree house dormitory or gaze out at the stars in your very own private hut. The food at Casa Loma is sensational, their open top showers connect you to nature and the night time camp fires with your fellow travelers give it a strong community vibe. If that’s not enough, there is sunrise yoga and sunset beers. It really is a family. Mi casa - tu casa, as they say. Costs vary depending on what form of accommodation you choose but it is incredibly affordable. A bed in a 6 bed mixed dormitory costs: COL$24,000 (€7 / $8).
Casa Viejas is a beautiful hostel located in Finca La Victoria (as mentioned in the above section). Situated 30 minutes above the town of Minca, Casa Viejas offers impressive views of the surrounding area, as far as Santa Marta. Founded by three travellers in 2016, Casa Viejas is the place to go if you are looking for an immersive experience in nature.
The atmosphere at Casa Viejas is super cozy and friendly and you will meet some pretty cool people, tourists as well as locals. It really feels like a home away from home but in the most breathtaking location. They have a huge focus on sustainability and minimising their negative impact on the environment whilst creating huge positive impacts for ecosystems and the local community.
Casa Viejas has private rooms, luxurious lodges as well as beautifully designed dormitories with impressive views. They have a bar and restaurant on site and the food is incredible. They offer yoga, massages, hiking activities, coffee farm tours, nightwalks and so much more.
Plan to stay at least two nights, if not more. Expect to pay around COL $40,000 (€11 / $13) per night in an 8 bed mix dorm.
Go Travel and Talk Top Tip: Arrive before the doors to Finca La Victoria close at 5pm. If you are arriving later, make sure you inform them beforehand.
- Lots of chicken, rice and beans which you will find anyone on the main road through Minca.
Vegetarian / Vegan Food:
- Head to the Lazy Cat Cafe or some delicious wraps, salads and stir fry's or head there early for breakfast and sip on their tasty local coffee (COL$8,000 / €2 / $3).
- Casa Loma hostel also serve delicious vegetarian meals including a mind blowing veggie burger!
- If you are looking for tasty treats and amazing coffee at super low prices head to DUNI, the homemade ice cream and brownies are a must! DUNI is located at the bottom of the path leading up to Casa Lomas. Check out their facebook page.
- Casa Viejas: If you are staying here, there is little reason to leave. Their onsite bar and restaurant serves up the most delicious food, vegetarian and vegan options available. Don't miss out on their home made bread! *All of their food is sourced locally from small farms and producers.